Learning how to prepare CS HS teachers: Why computer scientists have to get involved

October 13, 2011 at 11:17 am 8 comments

I just got my October 2011 copy of IEEE Computer and was pleased to see published my piece on “Learning how to prepare computer science high school teachers” (the last Word draft version is here, but the published version is severely proofread and much better).  I tell the story of Barb Ericson’s “Operation: Reboot” (moral of the story: The best teacher preparation doesn’t help if there are no teaching jobs), Lijun Ni’s study of DCCE teachers (following the Disciplinary Commons of Josh Tenenberg and Sally Fincher, led by Ria Galanos and Briana Morrison) (moral of the story: It’s hard to be a CS teacher, but model teachers and a community really helps), and Klara Benda’s study of on-line CS courses for full-time teachers (moral of the story: We need a new model).

I’m also trying to make a meta-argument: Computer scientists have to get involved.  If we just leave computing education to the existing education system, we’re going to end up with more applications classes — there’s a clear and evident need for such classes, and because we hide computing so well from the application user, it’s not clear and evident that there’s anything deeper (or that there’s any use for it).  I used the analogy yesterday to agriculture and biology.  Teaching agriculture is obviously useful, but it may not have been obvious 150 years ago that studying biology would lead to bigger, better, deeper ideas.  We had a recent visitor, a Chair of another CS Department, who said that he wouldn’t let his faculty get involved in high school CS education efforts, because, “We don’t have that kind of expertise.”  That’s not the point — the point is to inform the process about our expertise.  To quote my own article:

In addition to more well-trained high school computer science teachers, we need more education research that is informed by understanding how CS is taught, what current practices are, and what’s important to keep as practices change.

Upcoming lots of travel:  I leave tomorrow for the SIGCSE Board meeting in Charlotte over the weekend.  I will be at Rutgers for a guest lecture next Tuesday 18th October.  Friday the 28th, I’m visiting DePaul for another guest lecture.  I am taking Barbara to Florence, Italy 2-9 November to celebrate a birthday with a zero in it. And Barb and I (with our daughters) will be giving talks in Melbourne, Adelaide (three in one day!), and Sydney, Australia, leaving 15 November and returning 26 November.  (I will actually never see November 16 this year — it won’t be on Earth on that day. Weird!)  I may not be able to keep up my daily postings during some of this travel (and I have that 3rd edition Python book to finish before 15 November, too).  Thank you for your patience and ongoing interest!

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8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Garth  |  October 13, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    I am still looking for a CS teacher education syllabus/curriculum that does not involve getting a 4 year CS degree. As pointed out there is not a lot of demand for CS teachers so having a 4 year CS degree and wanting to be a high school teacher is a short cut to being part of the McDonald’s crew. What is needed is a CS Ed minor or certification that a prospective teacher can complete in a couple of semesters while getting a teaching degree in a field that does have good employment opportunities. A high school CS teacher does not need to know how to build an OS, they need to know how to teach freshmen Scratch or Small Basic. They need to know how to teach some basics of an upper level language like Java, C# or VB, they do not need to be a professional level Java programmer.

    • 2. Mark Guzdial  |  October 13, 2011 at 12:41 pm

      Yes, yes, yes! Another quote from the article: “Computing education must change for different audiences, including future high school CS teachers.” I don’t agree that CS + desire to be a high school teacher leads to McDonald’s (we do have some teachers that took that path), I completely agree that there has to be a path to becoming a high school CS teacher that doesn’t involve becoming a professional software developer. That’s the whole point of CSLearning4U

  • 3. Alan Kay  |  October 17, 2011 at 11:46 am

    Interesting question …

    I agree that a high school teacher does not need to be a software developer to be effective.

    I disagree that what they need to know is how to teach Scratch or Small Basic or some basics of languages like Jave, C# or VB.

    “Making” is different than “developing”, and high school teachers need to know how to make things from “computer stuff”; they need to understand/know “computing”. They need to know how to help others learn and do.

    We don’t want math teachers who can’t do math, or science teachers who can’t do science (but very often that is just what we do have).

    You don’t have to be a virtuoso to be a great music teacher, but you do have to be a musician who plays music!



  • […] to tell the MediaComp story, talk about Brian Dorn’s work with graphics designers, and with Klara Benda’s and Lijun Ni’s work that tells us about teachers’ needs to learn computer science. […]

  • […] using emerging technologies and pedagogies (mostly PBL) while valuing local contexts and practices. Mark Guzdial, in a recent paper, notes that “We need more education research that is informed by understanding CS—how it’s […]

  • […] they’re even more critical when teaching adults, when teaching working professionals, when teaching high school teachers who have very little time.  We need to re-think how we teach computing to cater to these new audiences.  Lauren is showing […]

  • […] is likely cultural to the region, not inherent to the discipline.  It is a real concern that computer scientists are not getting involved much in creating more high school teachers — computer scientists are not going to be happy with the result if we don’t participate […]

  • […] All the more reason for more computer scientists to answer Cameron Wilson’s “All Hands on Deck!” call, and to get involved in the CS10K effort. […]


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